PTERODACTYLS by Nicky Silver, directed by Matthew Kutas, with Don Allison, Sarah Dodd, Paul Dunn, Charlotte Gowdy and Ross McKenzie. Presented by Shakti Entertainment at the Tarragon Mainspace (30 Bridgman). Runs to June 20, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $28, Sunday pwyc. 416-531-1827. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Dysfunctional families have been a source of theatrical material since the Greeks. American writer Nicky Silver goes to the familiar well with mixed results in Pterodactyls , a dark, absurdist comedy that's occasionally funny but at other times slips into a muddled attempt at being "meaningful." The abusive family here includes parents Arthur ( Don Allison ) and Grace ( Sarah Dodd ), he a seemingly chipper dad with no contact to his or others' emotions, and she a boozing avoider of all problems. Their troubled daughter, Emma ( Charlotte Gowdy ), introduces her intended husband, Tommy ( Paul Dunn ), a closet case raised by nuns who ends up - in the kind of comically illogical logic that pervades the piece - as the family maid. Finally there's son Todd ( Ross McKenzie ), who returns home with the announcement that he has AIDS.
All of them are cartoon characters, but director Matthew Kutas mistakenly pushes the cast to high decibels and frantic action most of the time. Everyone's usually on the edge - except for a final 20 minutes, which seems to be from a different play - and the audience gets no chance to take in characters who are so frequently in our faces.
We'd get more from the script if Kutas had occasionally turned down the intensity knob.
The women fare best. Gowdy offers some bizarrely comic moments as the frequently sick, memory-gapped Emma. But it's Dodd who steals the show as the initially commanding Grace, who uses a sense of style to blanket anything that might upset her already shaky life.